The Saga of a Ruthless Swashbuckler
In the year 1729, Georgetown, South Carolina, was a busy seaport, where ships and barges carried goods up the river to deliver them to different towns. These large shipments of things from other countries—called imports—all came to the east coast of America from across the Atlantic Ocean. The people who sold these goods to people in the towns became extremely wealthy.
However, the slow and heavily loaded merchant ships were easy pickings for pirates, who darted out from the labyrinth of hidden bays in the barrier islands to plunder without respect for life. Some of the most famous pirates in history lurked offshore. Among the most famous of them were Caesar, Red Anny, and the legendary Blackbeard.
At one point, over 2,000 pirates were flying the Jolly Roger—the flag with the skull and crossbones that we always think of when we think of pirates—up and down the coast. Bloodthirsty and ruthless, most died as they had lived… violently. But what about the treasures they buried and covered… with human skulls and crossed bones?
Some say it's still around the area, waiting to be found.
We have our own secret stories about that, but for now, here is a fascinating collection of tales about the feared and notorious Blackbeard:
One of the most famous pirates of all time was called Blackbeard. His real name was Edward Drummond, and later he changed it to Edward Teach. He terrorized the waters in the early 1700’s, and he robbed ships from the Caribbean tropics all the way up to Virginia.
There are many stories about Blackbeard. He was a very big man, and he wore red ribbons in his beard. Sometimes he would light matches or ropes and put them in his hair or under his hat so that smoke billowed around his face, like he was the devil himself. He looked very scary and evil!
Blackbeard actually stole whole ships as well as treasure. His favorite ship was Queen Anne's Revenge. It was a French ship, and for some strange reason Blackbeard hated the French, so he took the ship over and called it his own. In 1996, archaeologists found Queen Anne’s Revenge in the ocean water near Fort Macon on the Outer Banks in North Carolina. They did not find any treasure.
Blackbeard married some 12 or 14 wives. No one is sure exactly how many. He was going to retire from being a pirate, but a man named Robert Maynard tricked him. Blackbeard had a party and drank too much rum, and the next day two ships came and they had an enormous fight. Robert Maynard managed to cut Blackbeard's throat, but he did not die. Then Maynard’s men stabbed Blackbeard with a sword, but the pirate still did not die. They shot him maybe 13 times, but he still did not die. Finally, they cut off his head, but strangely enough, they said his body swam around the ship 14 times.
No wonder Blackbeard’s life and death became the stuff of legends!
Like most pirates, Blackbeard liked to bury his treasures. And, like most pirates, he figured out a way to keep the treasures hidden even from his own crew.
Do you want to know how he did it?
Whenever he accumulated enough treasure to be hidden, he would row a small boat from his ship to the shore of a nearby island. He would always bring one sailor with him to help bury his treasure chest. But he always returned alone, and those poor sailors all met an awful fate. When he buried each chest he would drape the body of the dead sailor over it so that treasure seekers would be to frightened to take it.
After reading such stories, many people in America, even during the American Revolution, used to dig along beaches in pursuit of any hidden treasure chest. Unfortunately, none was ever found.
When they discovered the shipwreck of Queen Anne’s Revenge at Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina in 1996, it took little time to realize this was Blackbeard’s ship, and since no treasure was found there, either, the legend may have finally been put to rest forever.
Since the discovery, visitors and treasure hunters have turned the site of the sunken ship into a tourist attraction.
Here is another piece of the legend, as told by one man a long time ago:
“The pirate Blackbeard buried a treasure chest in the marsh near here. They say he killed and buried a man with the treasure to guard it and walled up the excavation with bricks to the top of the ground.
“Five men, two are still living, have found the spot where the treasure is buried, but not one of them has been able to unearth it. People say that once the spot is found, something happens to frighten the finder away, and he is never able to locate the place again.
“One man who found the spot cut the grass away with his knife and cut a path to a road nearby. But the next morning when the man went back to dig, he could find no trace of what he had done the previous day.
“Another man placed his shirt on a stake over the spot and went to the house for a spade. When he returned, he could find no trace of his shirt or stake.
“Tradition says that the treasure moves each time it is discovered.
“Several people have dug for the treasure but have been frightened away each time. On cold, windy nights, the voice of the man who guards the treasure can be heard… snatches of old sea songs and shouted oaths ride the winds up the bay.”
In the area of northern Delaware known as Blackbird, located north of Smyrna and east of Townsend, there are tales of chests filled with gold and treasure that were hidden centuries ago by the famous pirate Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. The famous rapscallion is believed to have visited the Blackbird Creek area in 1717 and early in 1718, as well as other sites along the Delaware Coast.
The Blackbird area is named after Blackbeard himself.
Some claim to have found evidence of decaying pirate forts, built of wood in the marshes. But, despite using metal detectors and aerial and satellite photography, no one yet seems to have found the chests and sacks full of Blackbeard’s captured gold and jewels.
Many believe much of it still lies buried somewhere along the state’s sandy coastline and marshy wetlands.
It’s said that Blackbeard fell in love with Governor Eden’s daughter. But… she was in love with another handsome sailor, and she gave him her ring to wear instead of Blackbeard. Not long afterward, Blackbeard attacked the sailor’s ship, fought off the crew, and went aboard. The pirate instantly recognized the sailor who was the lover of Eden’s daughter. In a jealous rage, he cut off the sailor’s hand that wore her ring. He put the hand, with the ring still on it, in a fancy silver box and sent it to Eden’s daughter.
They say when she opened the box she fainted dead away and soon after died of a broken heart.
Blackbeard once took over a large cargo ship carrying many wealthy passengers, including children, as it sailed out of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The hostages were locked in the dark hold of the ship. Blackbeard threatened to kill them all if the townspeople in Charleston didn't come up with the ransom: a medical chest filled with remedies to cure sickness.
The deadline for delivery passed. The hostages were frantic. The pirates prepared them for hanging.
With only minutes to spare, the town came up with the ransom and delivered the medicine chest. But before releasing the hostages, the pirates stole all their jewelry and clothing.
No one knows who may have been sick or why Blackbeard needed that medicine.
Blackbeard captured The French Guinea sailing vessel that became his flagship somewhere off the Bahamas in 1717. He and his pirate crew mounted forty guns called blunderbusses on her decks and renamed her the Queen Anne's Revenge. Besides the Queen Anne, he later added three other ships as well, to make a fleet—the Adventure, the Revenge and a tender, or small service boat, which helped out all three fighting ships.
After his fleet had grown to over 300 pirate sailors between the four ships, he decided he was through with being a pirate, so he devised a plan to retire.
He purposely ran the Queen Anne's Revenge and the Adventure aground near Fishtown, North Carolina (now Beaufort), and gave up the Revenge. Loading the tender with as much treasure as the small ship could hold, he sailed away, only to strand more of his crew on an island a few miles away. Now down to only 23 men, he sailed to the city of Bath and surrendered to Governor Eden. Because he had given himself up willingly, King George I of England, who stilled ruled the colonies, decided to pardon Blackbeard and let him go free. Tragically, before the king’s pardon arrived from England, Blackbeard was killed in a battle off Ocracoke Island.
Maynard's sailors—the one’s who finally brought the life of the infamous pirate to an end—hung Blackbeard's head on the bowsprit of their ship and headed for Bath, where Blackbeard had lived. Some time later, in January of 1719, they sailed to Williamsburg, Virginia, still displaying the gruesome head of Blackbeard. In February, they arrived in the Norfolk, Virginia, area. Around the middle of the month, authorities in Hampton, Virginia, hanged several of Blackbeard's men. Then they stuck his head on a pole as a warning to potential pirates.
Blackbeard's skull hung for many years from that pole at the place where the Hampton and James rivers meet. The head is long gone now, but the site is still known as Blackbeard's Point.
Some people say that a silversmith took his skull and made it into the bottom of a very large punch bowl, called the Infant, and for a long time people would drink from that very punch bowl at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg.
That is a story to make your head spin!
It was after Blackbeard’s head was cut off that all the weirdness began. According to legend, Blackbeard’s headless corpse swam around the ship of his enemies three times while his head, still hanging on board the ship, shrieked loudly. Since that time, many have spotted Blackbeard’s ghost in a cove at Ocracoke Island, which is called Teach’s Hole to this very day.
People who live on the island claim to have seen Blackbeard’s headless body floating on the waves. Sometimes it is spotted swimming in circles and glowing with an eerie light. Some people even claim to have seen the headless body rise up out of the water. When it appears, it has been said that the body holds a lantern, and it walks ashore in search of its head.
Because of these stories, any strange light on or near the beach is commonly called “Teach’s Light” in reference to the ghostly search Blackbeard’s headless ghost still makes.